Salla JSP. Diferenças nas propostas de operacionalização do conceito de classe sociais empregadas em estudos epidemiológicos. [Differences in proposals to operationalize the concept of social class employed in epidemiological studies.] Cadernos de Saúde Pública [Public Health Notebooks] (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 1996 July-September; 12(3):329-337.

Objectives: To analyze proposals for operationalizing the concept of social class employed in epidemiological studies by Latin American authors.

Methodology: Bibliographic review.

Results: The author underscores the importance of social class as a concept in epidemiological studies. This concept serves as a central category for examining the social determinants of health and disease. Analysis of different proposals for operationalizing this concept allows consideration of the best alternatives for improving this operationalization.

The author identifies several basic characteristics in the proposals under study: class structure; decisions by which an individual defines, via work and economic position, the family’s social class; class of the unemployed, of housewives, and of retired persons; the situation and position of students; criteria by which to distinguish between the bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeoisie; and mobility within particular population groups.

From the observed differences in the works studied and in the underlying theoretical models, the author analyzes problems arising from the fact that the same concept of social class can lead to different operational models. The author also examines the implications of this situation for epidemiological studies.

Conclusions: The concept of class has proven its usefulness for epidemiological studies. Nevertheless, it is necessary to deepen theoretical-conceptual analyses, identifying the possibilities, problems, and limitations that this concept holds for epidemiological research.

Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico